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EDITORIAL: Epicenter of Care and Safety

Funny might be a milder term to describe the advice, appeal, call or reminder—whichever is deemed fit, for the media to observe care or caution in using the term lockdown, which after all is not a media creation or concoction .It originated from authorities while taking initial steps to contain the spread of COVID-19 and even ASF.

It might be of help to find out whether lockdown is synonymous to community-based quarantine, the latest phrase coined by government officials to counter the rapid spread of the corona virus.To a certain extent, these two terms. In a worst case scenario, may be likened to curfew which used to be imposed on a day to day basis but only for a limited number of hours.

Whatever the terms may be, all of them have the effect of restraining freedom of movement, one of the basic human rights, which in a normal situation is constitutionally guaranteed.

Given however that restraint is being enforced for the purpose of protecting public health and on the basis of the declaration of state of public health emergency, the action finds solid justification. It is a strong ground for the state to exercise police power—the power to regulate.

It is only hoped that the situation is not taken by some poor souls in the police force who might take it to mean an added justification for a law enforcer to put the law into his hands.

In fairness, President Duterte, has publicly emphasized the supremacy of civilian authority and those who belong to the military and police organizations, are not persons of authority, but mere agents of persons in authority—meaning civilian officials. This is being reiterated in the light of a recent pronouncement of a high ranking PNP official in Metro Manila, that once the guidelines are out, they will arrest anyone who disobeys the lockdown or quarantine. As if being unaware of medical sickness is a crime per se. What the sick needs is compassion, not repression.

But before people get engrossed with the discussion about terminologies, care should be exercised in the issuance of public pronouncement about panic buying. For one, only those who can afford can engage in panic buying. Remove affordability and only panic remains. Those clothed with authority and mandated with responsibility should therefore focus their efforts to control panic among the most vulnerable sectors of the society- the poor.

This sector may not even be aware about the existence of the virus, that is why they would not care to submit themselves for appropriate laboratory test. It is highly probable that cases of casualties and fatalities due to COVID-19 are grossly unreported.

Invoking sections 9 and 10 of R.A 11332 of July 23,2018, “ An Act Providing Policies and Prescribing Procedures on Surveillance and Response to Notifiable Diseases, Epidemics, and Health Events of Public Health Concern, etc., may be premature given that there is yet no showing that section 8 of the same law which provides for the establishment of epidemiology and surveillance units nationwide have been complied with to the fullest extent.

Reaching people is a big responsibility for the health workers. Conducting house to house tests would be most ideal, but do we have the means, facilities and technical knowhow?

Or are we simply to let the crisis end in God’s given time and accept nature’s periodic turn to counter balance humanity’s excesses by adopting self-quarantine and social distancing.

At the end of the day there is wisdom in the thought that home, no matter how humble it maybe is the epicenter of care and safety.

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